The friendship between Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou and the textile artistry of Faith Ringgold not only linked three amazing, important African American women in life but also made history when one 73” x 73” quilt sold for $461,000 in September 2015.
Think about that amount the next time you see a new bed quilt for sale for $39.95.
The price differences are obvious: Ringgold is a well-known textile artist whose story quilts are in public and private collections around the world. Oprah Winfrey is so famous as a cultural icon that her magazine is called “O” and everyone knows who is meant. Among many other varied accomplishments, Maya Angelou arguably brought poetry into more American lives than anyone since Robert Frost.
And these three did it all under a banner of a female perspective on the world we live in. As African Americans. During decades when living their lives was not a walk in the park.
If all Americans are good at one thing, it’s admiring and thanking our heroes and heroines. So Winfrey honored her mentor and close friend Angelou by commissioning a story quilt from Ringgold for Angelou’s birthday and in so doing honored both Ringgold and herself. This is one very elite circle.
Angelou treasured her story quilt, “Maya’s Quilt of Life,” which, in my eyes, celebrates her love of gardens along with the wonderful nature of her way with the written word. Oprah speaks, Maya writes, Faith quilts. This quilt, commissioned for Maya’s 61st birthday, is acrylic on canvas and painted, dyed and pieced fabrics.
If you don’t have goose bumps by now, check your pulse and then make plans to see the magnificent “Maya’s Quilt of Life,” made in 1989, at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The museum acquired the quilt in September 2015 when Swann Auction Galleries in New York City auctioned more than 40 pieces of art from Angelou’s estate.
Now Faith’s vision of Maya’s life, sought by Oprah, is available to the public; admission to the museum is free although there is sometimes a charge for special exhibits. Fittingly, Crystal Bridges is an indoor/outdoor treasure to explore. Maya would have loved knowing where her birthday present lives.
To learn more:
by Andi Reynolds
Following almost five years as the executive book editor for the American Quilter’s Society, Andi Reynolds retired and has resumed the freelance life. She spends her time writing, quilting, cooking, and obeying the commands of her large dogs Lucky and Mousse. Her husband Dennis is the beloved co-leader of the pack. They live in Paducah, Kentucky.